|PER||PER Against (Net)|
|Michael Kidd-Gilchrist||12.8||11.1 (1.7)|
Writing a season recap for Kidd-Gilchrist almost feels redundant. As a second-year player taken No. 2 in a loaded draft, his development was under the microscope all year. Every game was a referendum: He shut down Carmelo! He got lit up by Carmelo! LeBron scored 61 points! He dropped 22 on the Heat in the biggest game of his life! He’s a bust, and he NEEDS more minutes!
It’s hard to shake the expectations that come with being picked so high, but the pre-draft scouting report on MKG has been mostly accurate so far. He’s still raw on offense, but his defense, rebounding, work ethic, and overall versatility make him a net positive when he’s on the floor.
Strengths: Rebounding is the easiest thing to quantify, though his numbers took an understandable dip with the addition of Al Jefferson. MKG grabbed 5.2 boards per game, 8.2 per 36 minutes. With MKG next to a starting lineup full of strong rebounders, the team was the league’s best on the defensive glass. Kidd-Gilchrist’s speed, length and smart play also gave him the leeway to chase offensive boards in a system that depended on transition defense.
His impact on the defense is a little harder to gauge. Just from by the eye test, MKG looked like a solid individual and good team defender that usually did a good job staying in front of his man. The team did a very good job preventing attempts near the rim without any standout shotblockers, and a large part of that was the transition defense by Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, and their ability to stop penetration by ballhandlers.
Going by defensive rating (just team points allowed per 100 possessions), Charlotte looked much better when Kidd-Gilchrist was on the floor. Of the regular rotation players, MKG had the best mark on the team at 98.3, which grew to 103.4 points when he was on the bench. That’s essentially the difference between a top-three defense and one that’s closer to league-average.
The lineups he played next to complicate those stats; because he spent a very large chunk of his minutes with the starters, a strong defensive unit, his numbers probably look a little better than they are. Then again, he’s a big reason why that’s the case.
MKG essentially supercharged the starting lineup — swap in any other of the other small forwards on the roster, and the team looked worse on both offense and defense. (Again, going by offensive and defensive rating.) Credit goes to the front office for constructing a well-balanced unit: Al Jefferson was a consistent source of points in the post, Kemba Walker could work in isolation when the offense broke down, Gerald Henderson brought versatile scoring and strong defense, Josh McRoberts spacing and passing, and Kidd-Gilchrist was usually tasked with checking the other team’s best wing player. They combined to form one of the best high-minute units in the league. Even if the team doesn’t make any major changes in the offseason, they should be able to run out this year’s starters and have a very solid team.
Weaknesses: This, basically:
MKG’s 47.3% from the floor is relatively efficient for a wing player, but it’s as deceptive as Bismack Biyombo’s 61% shooting. They both play to their limited strengths, which in Kidd-Gilchrist’s case is short-range layups and open dunks on the fast break. His jumper is ugly enough that it dominates pretty much every conversation about him and his potential.
It was interesting to see that jump shot evolve this year. He came out confident and aggressive from mid-range, shooting 47.4 percent on 19 attempts in his first 10 games. As his touch trailed off, so did his attempts, and he only took 69 more mid-range shots on the year. There was some hope that his stroke would improve after he spent his time recovering from a broken hand and working on his shooting form, but that didn’t pan out.
It’s going to be another long summer of work with shooting coach Mark Price for MKG, but expanding his post game would also help. He goes hard at the rim, but his lack of polished near-the-basket moves limit him, and often led to an easy charge call. Those hurt, especially since Kidd-Gilchrist also struggled with foul trouble this year.
Reasons for Optimism: If you can look past the draft hype, Kidd-Gilchrist is a very solid contributor despite having a gaping hole in his game. The jumpshot may never develop, but it seems inevitable that a 20-year-old will expand his offensive skillset in useful ways. If MKG can elevate his offense just a touch while staying as tenacious in other areas, he’ll still be a valuable piece to build with.
Reasons for Pessimism: Value is in the eye of the beholder, and a player with an obvious flaw like Kidd-Gilchrist’s jumpshot needs to be accounted for when filling out the rest of the roster. Role players, even those with the potential impact of Kidd-Gilchrist, need a hole to fill. If the team eventually finds a star wing player, and MKG doesn’t grow into a full-time starter, he could find himself the odd man out.